Monday, 30 November 2009

Moving in tomorrow!

Honest guv. We really are, finally, moving in tomorrow to our new abode. Saturday saw Mr B and the children taking our accumulated purchases to date up to the house while I went on a spending spree to find crockery, cutlery, pans, knives, implements, mops, brooms, laundry detergent, cleaning cloths, clothes pegs.... The shopping continued today (once we had determined that Mr B had been paid and we had money in the bank again!) for the crucial things we discovered we had missed (ike power adaptors so we can use the kettle and oven...) and collecting the last curtains.

Also tomorrow our new housekeeper  - J - starts. We met her on Friday morning - the sister of the lady who cleaned the first house we stayed in - and we just seemed to click. We've agreed to try things out for a week and take it from there.

While unpacking things on saturday we noticed that our new kitchen has no drawers, only cupboards with half-depth shelves... I'm sure one of you clever and resourceful readers can suggest way of storing cutlery, utensils, tea-towels etc?
In case you are eagerly awaiting news of Kitty's Christmas Production, I'm afraid there isn't any suitable to report. Suffice it to say that we experienced 5 minutes of it and then decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we all went home, one of us for an early night....

Oh, other good news today - Mr B found his first Rufous-tailed Weaver! It was (uncharacteristically) on its own and no signs of nests but he is hopeful that revisiting the site earlier in the day may turn up more. I hope so....

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Employing staff to help run and take care of your home. This is one of the aspects of life here that I'm finding it hardest to adjust to. After all, who in the UK employs even one person full time to help at home, let alone more? Only the very wealthy.

Here however, it is definitely advisable to employ people to protect you and your home. Most of the people we know have as a minimum two or three guards who, between them, ensure that someone is present in the grounds of your house 7 days a week 24 hours a day. They often also do some gardening in the daytime. (and most people also have guard dogs and 'security buttons' in their house and grounds, which, when pressed, summon a truck load of scary security officers).

Also, almost everyone who can afford it, Tanzanians and foreigners, employ someone full time in the house to help with cleaning, laundry, food preparation, washing up, taking care of the kids... and many also have a full time ayah if they are out a lot. It's not just for one's personal convenience, it is seen here as a duty to employ others if you can afford it, so as to provide work and income for them. Many people employ the less well-off members of their extended family in order to help them provide for themselves.

So, we are in the position of trying to find staff. We've found 2 askaris (guards) so far and are wondering if we need to find a 'relief' askari too, to help cover the hours. We are also looking to employ a house-keeper (normally called house-girl here but I struggle with the old-colonial-ness of that). Three people have so far offered themselves for the post. 2 have no previous experience and the other one I just don't feel right about, and certain things make me hesitate. What we would love is for someone we know to recommend someone but that hasn't happened yet. But I also feel bad turning down someone without being able to give a substantial explanation. We're definitely a bit out of our depth with this issue, and having to try to conduct interviews in Swahili isn't helping either!

Anyway, on a different note, we're eagerly awaiting this evening to witness Kitty's starring role in the school Christmas production. She is one of several yellow stars (in some creation from an adult sized yellow t-shirt I haggled for in the clothing market on Monday), will be joining in with the Christmas songs (including “The wise men went in 3 by 3, hurrah, hurrah...”) and also a narrator: “Not in a castle, not in a palace, not in a fancy hotel, but in a humble stable: that's where Jesus was born”. I can't wait!

Meanwhile, the Mancub and I are having a rest morning as we've run out of money to go on any more shopping expeditions until next month and we're letting Daddy do the heavy collecting this morning: Kitty's new bed (a four-poster complete with mozzie net), various sheets, pillowcases, laundy baskets and 4 eggcups are the rather random collection he's picking up this morning from some ex-pats who ran an overnight house for pilots flying between here and Kenya. He's also dropping in en route to check whether our curtains are ready and try to arrange delivery of our bed which, I believe (after a bewildering phone conversation yesterday afternoon) is ready. So today it's my turn to sit at our favourite cafe - the Blue Heron - and go on-line in the company of a cafe latte. ("the usual?" inquired our friendly waiter). We've also splurged on a chocolate brownie today. We've successfully resisted up till now but the display case is right behind this sofa and the smell was tantalising.... Anyway, must go and eat some before the Mancub polishes it all off.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Moving in slowly...

So today saw the first major deliveries into the new house - a cooker, a mattress and a fridge all eventually made it up there this morning. One only somewhat comic moment as I was trying to locate the truck wiht the fridge and mattress when it came sailing past me up the track in the opposite direction, happily ignoring my shouts. Still, a high-speed three point turn and landrover chase up the hill saw me eventually overhaul the truck as they stopped to ask someone where on earth they were trying to get to... So, we still need quite a lot of things and are just waiting for some expenses to be reimbursed before making the next set of purchases, but hopefully the next few days will see us increasing the collection. And who knows, we might even be more or less fully furnished before our first visitor arrives for Christmas (now you really have to come!). Wouldn't that be fun!

In other news Mama experienced our first robbery yesterday when her phone was stolen, having narroly avoided much worse happening when putting the Mancub in the car a little while earlier. It could have been much worse (she dropped the phone without realising and watched someone esle pick something up before realising she'd lost it...) and she's already got a new one with the same number (but if you're reading and think she's got your number on her phone, you're probably wrong - please send her a message with your name again!). Anyway, all part of the fun here. Oh, and I have a PO Box address for small and uninteresting looking things (really, please don't send anything at all interestesting looking - we sent two small boxes before we came and they disappeared somewhere...). Let me know if you want it!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Sayings of the Mancub

The internet is very slow today, so whilst I wait for the e-mails to arrive I thought I'd let you all know some of the Mancub's more interesting vocabularyas they occur to me. He seems to get less clear as he grows older, but there are some rules for translation. If it ends with an "s" sound it will be said "ai", if it ends with a hard "c" sound, that will come out as a "t". Most other constonants seem to be "b" or "p"s. Who needs all 26 letters anyway?

Happy Cate = Birthday Cake. (interestingly the only cake he'll touch at the moment)
Bimbimpee = Milipede (very common in our house at the moment...)
Mipe = Blanket
Meep = Sheet
Map = Cat
Mama = Banana (or Mama)
Bite = Flake
Unt = Elephant
Bebra = Zebra
Un'a = Another
Nunnul = Tunnel (very important for his cars)
Car part = car park
Bie = Bus
Tortie = Tortoise
Hie = House
Ony = Orange
Mit = Milk
Peep = Sleep

They get strung together in various ways, and context is very important. Thus "Mama, dowie, geen", might mean "there's a green banana in the shower", or perhaps more likely (though you never can tell with the Mancub around) "Mama's in the shower, getting clean".

He's also doing the same to Swahili (whith the exception of chui (leopard) which is perfect...

Holy = Hodi (equicalent of 'knock, knock', when arriving at a gate)

whilst I'm intrigued by:

Byeheri. Is this Bye bye, or kwaheri?

Still, that's all I an think of for now and most of the e-mails have now downloaded so I'd best do some work. Tomorrow we're getting lots of things delivered to the new house, so more business to come - it would be good to be up there by the end of the week though. We'll see!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Assorted pics from the last few days...

So we finally stopped long enough to download some pics from the camera this morning. Some of tese belong with the last posts, but hopefully you can work it out! I can't get the captions to fit with the photos, so you'll have to worth things out. Surely theres a sensible way to caption pictures...

Early, youthful, hot,  and somewhat out of place!

Mama provided Happy Cake (according to the Mancub) for my birthday, and here's the action shot!

Today's garden wildlife shots:

Friday, 20 November 2009

Birthdays, curtains and still no weavers

It is Mr B's birthday today. We celebrated this morning with the whole family snuggled into our bed witnessing the opening of his two presents (a green t-shirt adorned with african animals and a beautiful photo of a lake at sunset complete with waterbirds, framed in recycled dhow wood) and two cards. In retrospect, perhaps developing a postal address should have been something we did at the start! However, the two parcels we posted to ourselves before flying out here never made it (all those lovely books..) so even when we do have a postal address I will be wary of encouraging parcels and presents.

He spent the day searching for Rufous-tailed weavers again. Found lovely habitat complete with ostriches, secretary birds, sunbirds, canaries, buntings and lots of species of weavers...but still none of the target species. The (many) people he gave lifts to along miles of muddy tracks all had a look at the picture in the bird book and testified that, yes, the species is definitely in the area...but not a single sighting today. Has someone warned them that he's coming??!

Meanwhile the Mancub and I went on yet another exciting morning expedition - this time taking the material we agonized over yesterday to my friend M who has a team of staff who make up dresses, cushion covers, suits and - what we needed - curtains and sheets. I spent most of yesterday evening trying to write out detailed instructions about what lengths to cut the various bits of material into and how to join them so that the curtains are the right size and (after Mr B pointed it out) so that the various patterns and stripes match across the panels. Can you get a degree in curtain planning?? It certainly seemed to take me an awful lot of mental energy, especially as one of the fabrics I had chosen turned out to have the pattern running down instead of across the material...

Tonight we will have our first evening out together since we arrived 6 weeks ago. The housekeeper where we are staying has agreed to babysit and we're off for a meal out. But first, home to feed the kids (and try out the birthday cake!) and wash off the days mud and grime before putting them to bed.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Recipe for contentment

Take two children

Add two school mates plus assorted small siblings

Release in garden with 1 sandpit, 2 swings, 1 tractor, 1 car, several lorries and a paddling pool

Permit the removal of clothes
Turn on the hose

Then take three mums – one Brit, one American and one German
Add coffee, juice and homemade rhubarb cake
Place on outdoor sofas under a shady awning in a spacious garden in a warm climate

Mix well and leave for two and a half hours

Ahhh – a very nice afternoon

Monday, 16 November 2009

More quick news...

All continues OK - main excitement today being the ordering of one bed to be made for us. Most beds here being designed for people slightly shorter than me (and I'm not that tall), I wanted a bigger one so Mama and the Mancub set off on an adventure to the roadside furniture makers. Having decided what a fair price might be for a purpose build bed, she sat down to describe the requirements and the starting price offered was about 1/2 what she's thought fair, so after a little disbelief, interpreted by the seller as probably thinking it was too much, the price came down still further! We look forward to seeing the final work - and a tthat price might get them to put together dining table and chairs too...

Otherwise I enjoyed waiting for the floor to dry before heading out to come here this afternoon - a couple of days without rain and the puddles are all dry so our garden pond was again the centre of bird activity. In 5 minutes there were:

Yellow-vented Bulbul. (Many!)
Blackcap (at least 3m + 1f)
Garden Warbler
Baglafecht Weaver
African Citril
Black and white Manikin
Red-eyed Dove
Grey-headed Sparrow
Grey Woodpecker
Variable Sundbird

and I can't remember any more. Still 10 species in 5 mins, mid-afternoon. I don't think you'd easily manage that in the UK. How nice to be in Africa!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Father Christmas

Yes, we met him today. He even gave Kitty a keyring with a plastic football on it, of which the mancub is hugely jealous. We were at the Arusha Christmas Fair - the social event of the year I have been told. We certainly met most of the people we are aquainted with here, which was nice. I even managed to reconnect with a friend from 12 years ago! S and I shared a house in Greece for 3 months where we were doing fieldwork for our Masters' dissertations. I knew she was headed back to Arusha after that but we didn't keep in contact and I had no idea if she was still here. It was great to catch up - a husband and two kids for each of us since we last met!

The fair is also THE place to buy your christmas presents apparently. We're not very good at shopping generally but did manage some rather nice salad servers, napkin holders (animal shaped!) and a couple of table mats and a bowl. Oh, and Mr B even got me a Christmas present after I handed it to him with instructions! We also managed some BBQ chicken, chocolate chip cookies and ice-cream, but that didn't last very long...

We officially take our rental house this weekend and are in the middle of manic furniture/appliance/kitcheware hunting so that we can move in as soon as possible with at least the bare minimum to function. We saw some things this morning on the way to the fair and are booked in to see some more this afternoon - we're mostly looking at stuff on sale second hand from other ex pats but there is a second hand furniture store that the Mancub and I checked out last week, which is another option. Busy busy times.

Meanwhile we're still house sitting with no internet, so I'm writing this from an internet cafe. Not really the way I'd choose to spend saturday night, but we needed to carry on some email correspondence with potential furniture suppliers so here I am.

Finally, I am staggered by how the Mancub can relate almost anything to vehicles. He discovered a solitaire board the other day and promtly declared the channel round the edge a "train track!". A few days later I showed him the piano where he discovered yet another train track. I've never seen the black keys in that light before... His has also added "quad bike" to his vocabulary this week. Along with "Bible study" and "Bambomboo" (passionfruit)

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Quick update

Just a quick update to say we're all still alive and well, but failing to get internet in the house (boo). The last couple of days have been variously busy getting cars sorted, checking out the new house (the bath was going in, but it looks as though work on the other things we asked for has still to start...) and spotting nice birds in the garden. Here's a few shots to show what things look like:

This is an African Citril in the garden of the house we're currently staying in. Quite cute really.

And here's some of the new house, where the garden still needs some work (and that mosquito screen is definitely not mended yet...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Moving house...

Just a quick note - we moved to the (very nice!) house we are staying in for a little while whilst we sort the other house this morning. All moved OK and the true occupants will be off today and tomorrow, so all our fairly soon. I'm writing (with a low battery...) from a cafe down the road, as I'm not sure we'll have internet in the house for a while, so we may be rather more sporadic in posting. I'm enjoying the excuse to be here though - a nice coffee, lovely garden to sit and type in, and of course I had to bring my bins so I can enjoy the birds coming to drink at the fountain. Must be getting chilly back in UK at the moment - one of the visitors was a nice female blackcap and we had a lovely spotted flycatcher in the garden whilst we had breakfast this morning. It's the first blackcap we've seen for the season, and whilst the flycatchers have been in the bush when we've been out there its the first to arrive in the town, and I know they'll get fairly common in a few weeks time. Nice to see some friends from home. Anyway, back to plotting maps...

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Stinky Flamingos (no, not a local rock band...)

On Saturday we celebrated having been here for a whole month by visiting our second national park - Arusha National Park. Just half an hour from here, it is perfect for a day trip. We got up and out fairly early and were rewarded with clear views of both Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro. No lions and only forest elephants (v. hard to see) in this park, but loooooads of buffalo, plenty of giraffes, zebra and warthogs and lots of monkeys too. We passed great troops of baboons, several with babies clinging tight, and quite a few Sykes monkeys, but failed to find the colobus this time.

Being volcanic, Mount Meru has several old craters, now protected green oases for wildlife, which you can gaze into from on high.

It also has a few crater lakes and we saw a hippo with a baby, a few hundred little grebes and tens of thousands of lesser Flamingos.

 An amazing sight, but deemed "pretty but stinky" by Kitty, who moaned every time we went round a bend and there were "oh no, MORE stinky flamingos" while the Mancub gleefully yelled "STINKY!" repeatedly. To be fair to the poor birds, I suspect the lake contributed a fair amount of the smell.

Smaller, beautiful (but less stinky) were some Crowned Hornbills, Silvery-cheeked Hornbills, a splendid male Narina's Trogon, Little, White-fronted and Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters and a host of other waders, weavers, shrikes, boubous, quails etc. (Apply to Mr B for a complete list...)

We found a peaceful, if scorching, lunchspot next to one of the lakes, and had just settled into our picnic when a busload of school children turned up. They were very high-spirited and friendly and kidnapped the children for dozens of photos (me with a Mzungu girl!) before we retreated back to the car and headed off to find some shade or breeze.

After a full, hot, and rather parched (I only managed to pack half of the water...) day, we rounded things off by attending Fireworks Night, held at one of the big school campuses out of town on the west side.

Kitty and the Mancub tried their first BBQ chicken (deemed very acceptable as long as we bit pulled pieces off for them and they didn't actually have to hold it...), the Mancub had his first fizzy lemonade and admired the "BIG FIRE!", we bumped into various friends and aquaintances, survived a very impressive fireworks display without any tears or screaming, and Mama lost her glasses... Ooops. I'll phone the school tomorrow on the off chance that they have been found and survived unscathed. Seems unlikely somehow.

Today was somewhat less exciting. We tried a new church which was very friendly, boasted some impressive harmony singing from the congregation, seemed very sound and was simultaneously translated into English from Swahili. Sadly, it was also very hot, veeeery long (although not for here) and had no kids programme during the service, so I don't think we'll be going back. This afternoon I packed up our belongings ready for the move tomorrow (to the house we're house-sitting) while Mr B took the kids swimming at the lodge up the road. And tonight he's out on one of our first furniture/kitchenware/toy raids. We've had quite a response to our email round the local e-listings saying that we are looking for stuff to equip our house. The second hand market among ex-pats is flourishing, but also very expensive. Tomorrow or tuesday I shall seek out the local second hand furniture market and see how it compares.

And so to end, we proudly present our first ever, in the history of this blog...


 A prize (hmmm - free G&T on your arrival?) for the provider of the best caption!

Friday, 6 November 2009


Bliss is...

a whole day with no house viewings...
heading into town with four objectives and achieving all of them...
a big sister willing, for a short while, to sit and share a book with you...
a little brother who seems to be trying to copy your school uniform...
a friendly askari to chase around the garden ...
a tub of cold water on a hot day...


Perhaps we need a paddling pool?

p.s. in response to (bossy) sister, we have changed the settings to allow anyone to comment. Please do!

Thursday, 5 November 2009


Big news of today - we have agreed to rent a house! From the overwhelming response (ahem..) to our vote we ended up going for the one available now and engage in some super bargaining to get the price down. This decision was partly also based on the fact that the house we preferred was then not going to be available until some time in January (and who knows how much longer after that). Still, after Mama's practice haggling over wellies in the market this morning, she beefed up her performance to go for the house and managed a 20% reduction in price in seconds, so there we are. We've agreed to take it after a few things have been done to it for us (cover the big holes in the garden, put a bath in one of the three (it's a big place - come and visit!) bathrooms, etc.) and have said we'll be there at least until next summer. Lovely living/dining room opening onto a veranda and then the garden. So we'll move out of here on Monday to the house we're going to sit for a while and will set about finding some furniture and things (an oven would be handy) before we move in. As I say, it's a big house - four bedrooms, including a guest wing(!) - so visitors are strongly encouraged.

It's in an area called Il Boro, up a rough road (correction - a good road by tanzanian standards) on the north side of Arusha, the start of the lower slopes of Mt Meru. Hence it is considerably greener than the south or west parts of town. We already know a couple of people who live nearby and apparently there are lots of Mzungu (white) families up there and even a mums and toddlers group somewhere.

It's certainly nice to be done with the house hunting (and the associated waiting around for people/keys etc!) and we look forward to making it our own. The disney princess stick arounds lovingly chosen by Kitty before we came will finally find a wall to inhabit!! Domestic housewife that I am (yes - we've switched authorship mid-blog) I'm looking forward to accumulating some kitchen equipment of my choice and having more than half a shelf of fridge space!!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

School Uniform

Kitty's first day in uniform today, so in response to requests for a pic...

As for how she is enjoying it, I think it depends when you ask, how tired she is, what mood she's in...
She's gone in eagerly each day once we've actually got to the school, and she has seemed happy enough when we've picked her up. But we've had complaints. Definitely too much learning (i.e. some) and not enough playing apparently, but part of the reason we chose this school was the that there is lots of outdoor playtime and afternoons are all activity time. The weekly swim (involving a bus trip to the BIG school) proved a big disappointment yesterday because it was all learning and no play.

At any rate, the worst we hear is that sometimes it's BORING. No panics, no tears, no clinginess, no refusing to take part, , so it could be a lot worse! A certain lack of eating  - lunch today consisted of one piece of cheese.... but she made up for it by eating a big dinner with second helpings - almost unheard of - so I'm not too bothered.

On a different note, we will leave this house next Monday (our rooms are needed for others) and move to a beautiful house that we're house-sitting for a few weeks. It will be a bit of a wrench, partly because this house is so familiar now (and feels like it's ours!) but also because we will leave behind our two Askaris (night guards) whom we have grown to love. Every evening they turn up, just as we're finishing dinner usually, and the kids charge out to play with them for 20 minutes or so before being reluctantly herded inside to be de-grimed and put to bed. P (Bimbambom in Mancub speak) is the favourite. He throws them in the air, kicks a ball with them, and generally larks about. If he arrives while we're still eating, that's it for the Mancub - dinner is OVER and he's off, demanding cuddles. B, a grandfather and a bit more sedate, is also sought after. I must get a photo of P before we leave. Here is one of B.

Tomorrow Mr B is heading out west, partly to search for more weavers, and also, a last ditch attempt to locate a house for rent over there - noone has been able to tell us about a single one since we arrived 4 weeks ago, so he will just stop and ask the locals. If that fails, then I think we'll call a halt to the house-hunt and start the bargaining process on one.

Location, location, location

Sitting in the dark again tonight – we obviously need more rain... Amazing how quickly we'd decided they'd stopped the power rationing and forgotten about things! Still, a little juice left here so I thought I'd write something to post tomorrow. We've been sitting here mainly discussing houses – the earlier preferred option is now looking like a January maybe date, so we've ruled that out. But are now debating the “location, location, location” option. And in particular the relationship with schools – although Kitty started in town this week, from next year she'd have to move to the main campus which is about a 40min drive south-west from where we are at the moment – but in the same direction as I want to be for work. The problem is that we've seen just about no houses in that area and apparently there really aren't many rental properties there. We have seen some on the north-west side of town, but west is the dry side of town (and it makes a huge difference) so the general areas are far less attractive and gardens rather less shady. So what is it that makes a location? Handy for work / school certainly counts, but nice living area must count too. Dunno really...

Still, at least Kitty likes some of school – she enjoys the playing, but thinks there's too much time wasted trying to teach her something. And we have got cars sorted at last, so progress in some areas at least!

Monday, 2 November 2009

2 car family!

So this afternoon we became a two-car family as I jumped on the shuttle bus to Moshi to pick up the landrover I've bought to enable some proper fieldwork. It's a old (1988 actually, so really rather old) Landrover 110 that the mechanic I took it to last weekend thought was in amazing condition, only needing a few minor things doing (tightening the steering - a need I certainly noticed on my way home this afternoon!) and some new front springs before he thought I could trust it to the deepest bush. So, here it is driven by the Mancub.

And me as Big White Hunter, now properly equipped for the bush...

Kitty loved the indestructible nature of the inside meaning she could climb all over it.

But the Mancub also remaind faithful to the "lello ligh'" fascination of the Escudo. Though he does look as though he might be consoling it on loosing some status to the more venerable beast...

NB Note the size of the Landrover (apparently she's called Sahara): plenty of room for lots to join us on safari. And a roofrack for extra luggage (or people). Ideal for that roof tent too. Now I wonder where you find one of them...

First day at school

Here is Kitty, all ready for her first day at school.
No unform today because of Sports this afternoon. She insisted on the plaits.

Head down, glum, stopping to sort out a shoe, playing for time, looking back over a shoulder, reluctant to go...

That was me.

Kitty was fine. Eagerly bounding in at the classroom door. "I've got a new lunchbox with Winnie the Pooh!"

I had to ask, humbly, needily, for a goodbye cuddle and then she was off to join the others. No looking back.

When did she get so grown up?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Weavers for a change

So, not much to report for today (went to the same church as a few weeks ago, met some of the same people and some new news, then enjoyed a nice lunch and lazy afternoon with a bunch of people from there and elsewhere (including a rather large number of teachers from one of the internation schools) and that's about it - highlight for Kitty and the Mancub being some tiny puppies with eyes still closed, whilst I appreciated the 3 species of sunbird in the garden), so I thought I'd post something about the weavers I saw (or didn't) on my trip last week.

The mission, to remind you, was to find a suitable place where Rufous-tailed Weavers have plenty of nesting colonies that might be useful as a study site. The destination was a tip-off from someone we've met by text along the lines of 20-30km down the Oljoro Rd there are RTWs. So, first, find Oljoro Rd - no easy task when most streets aren't signed and aren't named on maps (and certainly aren't consistently named anyway...). So, after one false start I found it and zipped along nice tarmac for a while 5km, before hitting mud which gradually deteriorated the further I drove... Still, after about 20km I finally got somewhere that wasn't completely overgrazed and still had some bush left over, which was a good sign. (It even had one of my favourite local birds - this pigmy falcon which is actually rather smaller than a blackbird.)

And then, passing under a mysterious barrier with a smile and a wave to the rather surprised onlookers I came across a tree with definite weaver nests:

Now Rufous-tailed Weavers have a few friends who also make rather messy nests. Some weavers create magnificent constructions with delicately woven entrance tubes (some even have false entrances to fool the snakes!) and all sorts (I'll have to take some pics of those types too). RTWs and their friends don't bother - as you can see, they tend to look more like my best knitting efforts. In fact these ones are from the rather more common and much more widely distributed Red-billed Buffalo Weavers. (You can just see one in the left-hand most nest in the pic - all black, with a red beak, not very exciting really.) You can tell (a) because there's one with the nests and (b) because they're mostly built on top of the branches. Actually, this is a bird I'm interestested in, because I think it might well have some sort of competitive relationship with "my" RTWs, but not what I was looking for this time (and you don't have to go anywhere near as far from Arusha to find it either).

So, carrying on, I came across this tree. Ah ha, nests below the branches, bit more interesting...  Messy nests below the branches. But no, sitting in the tree with these ones was a White-browed Sparrow-weaver. Another largeish, dull, messy nesting weaver, but not mine...

So one a bit further and this time definite gold - a tree with some beautifully redone Rufous-tailed Weaver nests. Big, very messy, sometimes several pairs in one blob. And the new ones with nice yellow straw. But could I find a bird? Not even a hint! Parrots, yes, lovebirds, yes (again, another species that might have something to do with RTW's strange distribution), wattled and superb starlings, yes. But the builders of the nests? No. And yet part of my project more or less relies on the fact that these birds are easy to find around their nestinging colonies year-round... So where were they? Am I wrong and these aren't the most northerly breeding Rufous-tailed Weaver colonies but something else (and if so, where were they, whatever they were?!) - it's certainly possible, but my tip-off was from someone who really should know. Or were they just rooting around some beautiful dung pile I couldn't see from where I was? So, the search will have to be continued. And as a final bit of excitement on my way back I discovered that the mysterious barrier I had passed marked the edge of a military zone - discovered when stopped by a burly army type asking what I was doing and who had given me permission to be there... Happily the ignorant foreigner role worked a treat once more...